Preventing Elder Abuse

Insight for those working with older people

Whilst there is no simple or single solution to prevent abuse, mitigating risk factors that are known abuse precursors is the best method of prevention.

The following list may assist you when consulting with your client or patient:

  • Encourage the older person to be socially connected by being an active member of their community
  • Suggest regular engagement with family, friends and neighbours
  • Advise connection with community groups, churches and social services local to the older person
  • If there is cognitive impairment, support the older person directly or assist them to find an advocate who can help them with issues regarding their living arrangements, belongings and finances
  • Advocate for caregiver support interventions, such as regular support and respite for the older person's carer

Things we can all do to help prevent elder abuse

  • Listen to older people and their caregivers
  • Intervene when you suspect elder abuse
  • Educate others to recognise and report elder abuse
  • If someone you know is being abused, report it. Call the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline & Resource Unit on 1800 628 221
  • In there is an emergency situation involving risk of harm to the older person or others, contact emergency services on 000

See the Resources page for comprehensive information regarding support services for your patient or client.

Information regarding prevention from the World Health Organisation

For further details, see:

Many strategies have been implemented to prevent elder abuse and to take action against it and mitigate its consequences. Interventions that have been implemented – mainly in high-income countries – to prevent abuse include:

  • public and professional awareness campaigns;
  • screening (of potential victims and abusers);
  • school-based intergenerational programmes;
  • caregiver support interventions (e.g. stress management, respite care); and
  • caregiver training on dementia.

Efforts to respond to and prevent further abuse include interventions such as:

  • screening potential victims;
  • mandatory reporting of abuse to authorities;
  • adult protective services;
  • home visitation by police and social workers;
  • self-help groups;
  • safe-houses and emergency shelters;
  • psychological programmes for people who abuse; and
  • caregiver support interventions.

Evidence for the effectiveness of most of these interventions is limited at present. However, caregiver support after abuse has occurred reduces the likelihood of its reoccurrence and school-based intergeneration programmes (to decrease negative societal attitudes and stereotypes towards older people) have shown some promise, as have caregiver support to prevent elder abuse before it occurs and professional awareness of the problem.

Multiple sectors can contribute to reducing elder abuse, including:

  • the social welfare sector (through the provision of legal, financial, and housing support);
  • the education sector (through public education and awareness campaigns); and
  • the health sector (through the detection and treatment of victims by primary health care workers).

In some countries, the health sector has taken a leading role in raising public concern about elder abuse, while in others the social welfare sector has taken the lead.

Globally, too little is known about elder abuse and how to prevent it, particularly in developing countries. The scope and nature of the problem is only beginning to be delineated, many risk factors remain contested, and the evidence for what works to prevent elder abuse is limited.